Get To Know - Nonzuzo
Written By
Nonzuzo Gxekw: (b. 1981) is a Johannesburg-based photographer. Her approach to photography favours the everyday over the spectacular; sharing interesting and intimate moments through focusing the camera on what is around her as well as herself. Whether it is through street photography or the studio, her work explores the human condition in subtle and beautiful ways.
Through my photography, I am responding to what is directly in front of me. It is fast and intuitive.

PHS: What has drawn you to photography?

N: What has drawn me to photography, apart from it being a creative outlet for me - it has allowed me to learn and connect with the world through stories. Be it the challenges of the LGBTQI+ community, the impact of religion (Christianity) on black people, or simply the aesthetics and politics of black hair.

PHS: What are the topics you are dissecting within your work?

N: My work explores themes of movement, identity and sexuality.

PHS: How would you describe your work in three words?

N: layered, intuitive & raw

PHS: You are working in the realms of street photography and studio photography. In which style do you feel most comfortable?

N: Street is definitely my first love, I love spontaneity, paying attention to all that is around me. The pleasure of looking and finding in a fleeting moment something that captures all my senses. Be it a hand gesture or the way someone is walking or their outfit.

PHS: How do you approach your work?

N: My street photography is about responding to what is in front of me, it is fast and intuitive. For other projects, the process starts with an idea, focusing on the story I want to tell. Having been working with Michelle of Through the Lens, one starts thinking about elements that make up an image. - the visual language, how elements come together to tell a story, through my point of view. It is a slow and long process.

PHS: In your photography we can notice a tendency to Black and White photography. What is your editing process in your work?

N: I find B&W visually striking, less distracting, yet it also depends on the subject matter. The editing process means taking time to look at what I have captured, what I was interested in when I captured a particular moment, and reflect and see if my ideas, the story I want to tell, is translated visually. I really like a bit of rawness, an imperfection in my images, as I feel it is reflective of the world we live in. Capturing everything in-camera helps keep the editing of my images to a minimum. However, I use tools like Lightroom, VSCO, and Snapseed.

PHS: What is your source of inspiration?

N: I'm inspired by stories from the past and the present, life, and the world. The support of my family and friends, when I’m going crazy and I am not sure about what I’m doing or what to write. My twin, Noncedo Gxekwa, a photographer herself, is a big influence. Additionally, I am inspired by Buyaphi Mdledle from the Buyaphi University in Soweto, who teaches photography to young kids and Andy Mkosi, who is a dynamic creative.

PHS: What are your hopes for the future in photography?

N: I would love for more women who look like me to pick up their cameras. I only started taking photography seriously in my late 20’s. Often when it comes to opportunities they are aimed at young people and I just want to remind people that it's never too late to start.

PHS: How would you describe success within your practice?

N: Success to me is taking an image of someone and they recognise themselves in the image and fall in love with themselves or receiving an IG message from a stranger who is inspired by my work that they’ve decided to pursue photography. However, on a bigger scheme of things, success will be when I can use my photography for change in my community.

I want to share love and hope through my photography.

PHS: What are you working on at the moment? Is there a new projection that you are working on?

N: Honestly, I’ve found creating during the pandemic really challenging. As someone who shoots on the street concerns around safety, health or otherwise causes a lot of anxiety. Being indoors has forced me to sit down and go through my hard drive and look at my work. This has inspired a project where I am choosing images and asking different writers to respond to. All I can say is watch the space, exciting things on the horizon yet, for now, some of my work is on the show with

PHS: How do you perceive the current state of the South African Photography Industry?

N: In terms of South Africa people are doing exciting work, a lot of experimentation, the community is continually growing. Publications like African Lens, which is black-owned and celebrates work from across the continent. However, photography still remains a white, heteronormative elitist space.

PHS: What do you think is needed for the African Photography Industry to thrive?

N: I think the support needed, especially by black female photographers, are spaces to exhibit, space to work from and share ideas, develop the skills required to make a living from your work. Equipment is a big part too. South Africa is interesting in that we have Nikon, Canon and FujiFilm and none of these brands has black female brand ambassadors. There is a huge disjuncture between the celebration of our work as black female photographers and paying us what we are worth.

There is a huge disjuncture between the celebration of our work as black female photographers and paying us what we are worth.

PHS and Nonzuzo Gxekw


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